The Infospheres group carries out research on theory, design methodology, and prototype development of sense and respond (S&R) systems.
Sensing the environment and responding appropriately to opportunities and threats is a matter of survival for organizations and organisms. A zebra survives when it senses and flees a stalking lion and conserves energy by not fleeing from imagined threats. Similarly, an organization thrives when it senses and responds to its environment in a suitable timely fashion.
The Global Environment
Thousands of years ago, humans sensed and responded to their immediate neighborhood of a few kilometers. Now our neighborhood is the globe: strikes in India and changes in the Bank of England's finance rates impact our economic lives; music fans want to know about videos released in Sweden and Brazil; and sports fans in Hong Kong follow soccer teams in Europe.
Attention – The Scarce Resource
Humankind is constrained by scarce resources such as energy, water and food. A critical resource that is becoming increasingly scarce is our attention; we just don’t have time to pay adequate attention to the things that matter. Most of us have myriad calls on our time to execute a multitude of functions. Responding suitably to the environment requires us to pay attention to the things that matter and to ignore things that don’t.
Human Organizations Sense and Respond
All human organizations – families, tribes, companies, nations – are sense and respond systems to some degree: they thrive when they sense, respond and adapt to their environments. People are generally more important than technology in determining the efficacy of sense and respond applications. Effective integration of S&R technology into people’s daily operations is critical for success.
Sense and Respond Systems Amplify Human Ability
A sense and respond information system expands your ability to monitor information sources around the globe; it analyzes data to detect important changes in your environment; it helps you pay attention to the situations that matter; and it amplifies your ability to respond suitably and quickly to events.
Examples of S&R systems include those that sense and interdict dangerous nuclear material; warn about earthquakes, tsunamis and hurricanes; monitor patients; enable disabled people to live independently; help investors manage their portfolios by identifying opportunities and risks; and manage infrastructure such as the electricity power grid, gas pipelines and air traffic.
See the Pervasive Computing for Disaster Response website for another example of applied Sense and Respond systems.